It’s a weird time we’re living in right now. Most people still at home. Others who have been in at their place of employment this entire time. I often wonder which side of the coin is preferable, but I guess it varies by person. I’d hate to be working in a restaurant or grocery store right now dealing with entitled customers who refuse to put on their mask. They don’t get paid enough to be treated that way! And no matter how you feel about wearing a mask, the least you can do is be respectful of the people who are just trying to stay out of trouble and do as they are told.
But since I’ve been at home since March and most likely not returning to an office until at least next summer (which honestly, I can’t even think about), this article will focus on those in my situation—at home, living on Zoom, and trying to manage this whole work-life blend that has come to be the norm.
As an introvert who thrives on intimate connection to others, I continue to find ways to interact with my former seat-mates and now build relationships with my peers who worked in our sister office a few hours away. It’s been an unexpected perk that our two main offices have grown closer since we no longer have a singular divide. The playing field was leveled for sure.
Here are five simple steps you can take today to check in on your co-workers and start feeling the warm and fuzzies from work again.
1. Coffee chats. Informally, I set up a 30 minute meeting with a friend or two just to get in our chit chat a few times a month. Since I can’t just roll back my chair anymore and ask my friend behind me if she’d seen The Bachelor yet this week, we’re doing it via Zoom. Usually first thing in the morning, hair in a messy bun and in our workout clothes. Formally, there’s a woman on my broader team of about 20 who is coordinating “Coffee Connections” with random people on the team so we can all get to know each other a bit more—which has become increasingly important as new people have joined, roles have shifted, and reorgs have occurred.
2. Snail mail. Always. A card in the mail to know someone’s thinking about you or praising you for your work. Even better if you throw in a $5 gift card.
3. Slack hellos and memes. The biggest tip for connection is to find a way to NOT focus on work all the time. If your company uses Slack, here are my favorite fun tools:
Type in “/giphy” followed by whatever you want to say, like:
/giphy Happy Birthday
and that will pull up memes related to birthdays. If you want to level up your meme game, the newest I heard last month was adding a caption to your meme!
/giphy #caption “Is it Friday yet?” Golden Girls
The “Is it Friday yet?” is your white text, and Slack will look for a meme with The Golden Girls.
4. Regular team meetings and lunches. I know, everyone is sick of happy hours and forced team get-togethers, but if you can do them in small groups of five or less, you’re more likely to be successful. My team has had a lot of luck with Codenames, Scattergories, and Drawful.
5. Be on video. Less fun, but most important. There are people I’ve literally not seen in 5 months. They get on video for 12 seconds before turning it off, and I WANT TO KNOW IF YOU ARE OKAY. Are you in the same sweatshirt every single day? Is there trash piling up behind you? Do you constantly have kids hanging on you? Knowing these things helps me know if you are okay. Do you need something that I can offer? No one is wearing make up anymore, and there’s probably only one out of 10 people on your big team call that got dressed up for the event. Even my VP is in a tank top and a hat every time I see her, and that gives everyone else a little bit more grace to relax and be themselves.
Nothing about what we are going through is easy. It’s unchartered for even the most seasoned leader, so we each have a responsibility to step up and support each other.
Drop a note and let me know if you have other ways you’re supporting your co-workers through this temporary-normal.